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Minn. Supreme Court Rejects Coleman on Ballots

Thursday, 18 Dec 2008 07:50 PM

By David A. Patten

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Adding to the misery afflicting incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman — who watched his lead over Democratic challenger Al Franken dwindle to just five votes Thursday — the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected his request that counting be halted of some 1,600 improperly rejected absentee ballots.

In its ruling the Court appeared to address Coleman’s primary concern, however, that city and county election officials must be given a uniform standard to help them decide which ballots were wrongly rejected.

The Court ordered the campaigns of Coleman and Franken to meet with Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, and agree on a uniform standard. Once that’s done, the Court ruled, the improperly rejected votes should be added to the tally.

Coleman filed a lawsuit with the Court last week asking that the erroneously rejected ballots not be added back into the vote tallies, as the State Canvassing Board had asked local election officials to do.

Coleman’s lawyers asked instead that the improperly rejected absentee votes be set aside. Their fate would then be determined during the cloud of lawsuits expected to arise from what has become a historically close election.

Coleman’s camp had expressed grave concerns that absent a clear standard, city and county officials would apply different standards in determining which ballots were wrongly rejected.

The requirement for a uniform standard may satisfy the Coleman campaign, which has insisted all along it wants every valid, legitimate vote to be tabulated.

The Coleman camp could appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. But Guy-Uriel E. Charles, a visiting professor at Duke Law School, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that such a challenge would probably be defeated.

“The question is, if they are legal votes, why shouldn’t they be counted?” Charles said. “That presents a difficulty for the Coleman camp.”

Wall Street Journal commentator, author, and election expert John Fund tells Newsmax that the Supreme Court ruling “just prolongs the agony.” “The two candidates have to agree on standards, and I suspect they won’t agree, which means they’ll both have to go to court to challenge each and every ballot.”

[Editor’s Note: Get John Fund’s book - Go Here Now]

The Supreme Court set a deadline of Dec. 31 for the two sides to agree on what the uniform standards would be, but Fund says it is unclear what the Court could do to enforce the deadline, if an agreement can’t be reached.

Putting the absentee ballots aside, thousands of votes have yet to be adjudicated. “I don’t think you can determine who’s going to win yet, I really don’t,” Fund tells Newsmax. “I think this is going to the Senate. I’ve said it all along: It’s going to the Senate.”

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has suggested that the Senate reserves the right to review the election process, rather than seat the winner certified by Minnesota officials -- and the Senate has the Constitutional authority to refuse to seat a candidate for membership.

“The game of recount is you count, count, count until you’re ahead, and then you say, ‘Stop counting.’” Fund tells Newsmax.

Fund is the author of Stealing Elections, Revised and Updated: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.

“Here’s the irony,” Fund tells Newsmax. “If Franken is ahead at the end, he won’t want to count the absentee votes. Oh, he’ll give it lip service, he’ll say ‘Every vote should be counted.’ But in practice you’ll find that his efforts to do so will become much more subdued.”

Nor is it a given that a Democratic-controlled Senate would automatically seat Franken without further investigation into Minnesota’s election process.

“Well, on that one they still may actually take a look at it,” Fund says. “If there’s enough of a dispute, the Senate may demand to have their own look at it. Remember, Coleman is a colleague, so there will be some sympathy for him in some quarters, even among some Democrats — maybe not enough, but some.”

No date has been set for the parties to begin discussing the uniform standards.

[Editor’s Note: Get John Fund’s book - Go Here Now]

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